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by Chris Teale November 17, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

Arlington County Police cited 11 drivers in two places earlier this week for failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said the tickets were issued from two locations: the intersections of Washington Blvd and 4th Street N. in Lyon Park; and Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street in Alcova Heights.

Police said the program is part of its 2017 Street Smart Pedestrian, Driver, and Bicyclist Safety Campaign from November 6 through December 3.

The program aims to change road users’ behavior while reducing the number of crashes and injuries. Officers ticketed motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians who violated traffic laws.

Officers will conduct another high-visibility enforcement effort on November 30.

by Chris Teale November 15, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

Two Washington-Lee High School students suffered minor injuries after the car they were riding in hit a tree in a home’s front yard near the school.

The car hit the tree just after 11 a.m. on the 1600 block of N. Randolph Street after veering off the road. The crash occurred in the Cherrydale neighborhood, near the Cherry Valley Nature Area.

It caused damage to the front of the car, but did not appear to have caused much damage to the tree or any of the surrounding houses.

The pair were interviewed by police officers and attended to by paramedics, while startled neighbors came out of their houses to survey the scene.

by Chris Teale November 3, 2017 at 11:30 am 0

Arlington police are urging caution when buying a used car after two people tried to register one that turned out to be stolen.

Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said the victims, who were working for a used car dealership, bought the vehicle near Richmond after responding to an online advertisement.

They found it was stolen when they tried to register it at county government headquarters, apparently not realizing before police showed up that the car was “hot.”

Savage had the following tips for anyone looking to buy a used car.

  • “Be extra cautious if the seller is out of the area. Avoid deals where the vehicle cannot be viewed in person.”
  • “Be suspicious if the seller has no fixed address, phone number or email and/or they contact you using various methods.”
  • “Meet the seller in a public place.”
  • “Compare the vehicle’s VIN listed on the vehicle title with the public VIN located on the vehicle. Utilize an online service to check the vehicle’s history report.”
  • “Ensure that the title and registration for the vehicle match the name and address of the person selling the vehicle. Ask for multiple proofs of ownership such as the vehicle’s title, insurance cards, service records, finance records which can all demonstrate long-term ownership.”
  • “Obtain a photocopy of the seller’s driver’s license or government issued ID and write down the ID number on the Bill of Sale.”
  • “Don’t pay in cash.”
  • “Trust your gut. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

by ARLnow.com November 1, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

Two people who bought a used car and went to register it at county government headquarters this past Friday received some very bad news.

Police were dispatched to 2100 Clarendon Blvd on Friday afternoon for a report of someone trying to register a stolen vehicle.

Upon questioning the person, it turns out that the pair had apparently bought the used car not realizing it was “hot.”

Police are now looking for the man who reportedly sold the stolen car. More from this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:

RECOVERED STOLEN VEHICLE, 2017-10270211, 2100 block of Clarendon Boulevard. At approximately 4:02 p.m. on October 27, police were dispatched to the report of an individual attempting to register a stolen vehicle. Upon arrival, it was determined that two individuals purchased a used vehicle and while attempting to register it, discovered the vehicle to be reported stolen out of Virginia. The seller is reported to be a black male, approximately 5’8, 160 pounds and between 27 and 33 years old. The investigation is ongoing.

The rest of this past week’s crime report highlights, after the jump.

(more…)

by Chris Teale October 31, 2017 at 11:30 am 0

Arlington County should begin planning soon for the long-term growth in the use of driverless cars on its streets, says a local transportation expert.

The county has been on the forefront of research into autonomous vehicles. In August, a car that appeared to be driverless was spotted on the streets of Courthouse and Clarendon.

The following month, car company Ford revealed it was behind the vehicle’s presence, as it was partnering with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to test signalling technology and people’s reactions. (A human driver disguised as a seat was actually behind the wheel).

CNBC reports that Ford plans to bring autonomous vehicles to a test market next year, while the CEO of chip manufacturer Nvidia said fully autonomous cars will be on the roads in “no more than four years.”

And with the technology continuing to be refined, the time is now to start planning for a future with more and more autonomous cars on the streets of Arlington, according to Diana Mendes of HNTB Corporation, an architecture and civil engineering consultancy firm with an office in Shirlington.

“Arlington is a very special place,” Mendes said. “There’s a lot of thought given to land use and community and how communities are designed. It’s not too soon to start thinking about those changes so that you have the benefit of being able to reflect and then be proactive as opposed to trying to play catch-up when things start happening that you may or may not think fit with the character of the place you want to be.”

To do it, Mendes said elected officials, staff and other stakeholders must look to the future and explore how government policy and physical infrastructure can be put together. That could include making sure that the likes of crosswalks and stop lights interact with the autonomous cars to enhance everyone’s safety, or exploring how street layouts can change to adapt to the new technology.

“I think the local planning processes, community planning and master planning as well as regional transportation planning processes is a good place to start,” Mendes said. “You have your short-term improvements, but maybe we now should be spending a little more energy in those longer-term improvements to we’re not solving yesterday’s problems tomorrow. That’s the right place to start.”

But while there are planning decisions to be made, Mendes said, it will be exciting to see how the technology of autonomous cars evolves. Potentially, she said, driverless vehicles will become less like the cars we are familiar with today and may be designed to be more suited for people to get work done on the road.

“These could be portable spaces dedicated to different functions that enable people to recoup time that they would have otherwise lost in more traditional forms of travel,” she said. “I think that changes the landscape dramatically.”

by Chris Teale October 27, 2017 at 10:30 am 0

The Maserati and Fiat dealership on S. Glebe Road near I-395 is expanding.

The dealership at 2710 S. Glebe Road is being knocked down and rebuilt on the same plot of land. When an ARLnow reporter stopped by, much of the building had been demolished, except what used to be the front entrance. The building that housed the dealership used to be a seafood store.

Permitting applications filed with the county show a new one-story sales room will be built, as well as a four-story building for service and vehicle storage.

“The lot wasn’t being used to its fullest potential, so we’re expanding and adding space,” said Ethan Anderson, a spokesman for the company.

The dealership will stay open throughout the work, with employees’ offices housed in a temporary trailer nearby.

Anderson estimates the construction could take about a year to complete.

“It’s quite a project,” he said.

by Chris Teale October 24, 2017 at 10:30 am 0

Getting hit by a car seems like it would be a rare event, but it’s happened to at least three people who work in one Clarendon office recently.

None of the collisions have resulted in serious injuries, but it is nonetheless remarkable that so many people on one floor — in the MakeOffices coworking space at 3100 Clarendon Blvd — have been struck by cars in the past few months.

Zack Armstrong, who works at MakeOffices and lives nearby, told ARLnow his story. On a Saturday morning late last month, he was running along Washington Blvd near the Giant grocery store in Virginia Square when a woman struck him as he tried to cross the street.

Armstrong said it was only a minor collision, and that the driver stopped immediately, got out of her car and was hyperventilating with the shock of hitting a person. He said he was able to get right back up and walk over.

“I wasn’t really injured,” he said.

Another MakeOffices member who wished to remain anonymous said she was struck by a car and had a near-miss another time, both when she had the right-of-way at crosswalks and within weeks of each other.

The collision happened at the intersection of N. Highland Street and Clarendon Blvd, as a car turned onto N. Highland Street and clipped her as she crossed at the crosswalk. The near-miss happened as a car came too quickly out of the parking lot underneath the 3100 Clarendon Blvd office building as she crossed from beside the building.

A third person who works at MakeOffices was struck by a car in Maryland on Memorial Day, and had to wear a protective boot while her ankle healed.

Nanette Bass said she was crossing at a crosswalk when a car ran a red light and clipped her as she tried to get out of the way. The impact sent her spinning in the air, and she landed on her leg. The car did not stop.

Photos No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 via Google Maps.

by ARLnow.com October 13, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

Two juvenile suspects were arrested this past Sunday night and charged with smashing the windows of at least three cars.

Police say they responded to the 2800 block of S. Lang Street, near Gunston Middle School, around 10:40 Sunday night after a resident heard a loud sound and then went outside to find his car window smashed and two people fleeing the scene.

Police searched the area and apprehended the two juveniles, who matched the suspect description given by the victim. Officers also found two other cars with smashed windows and items rummaged through inside.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report, below.

DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY (VEHICLE) WITH APPREHENSION (series), 2017-10080238/226, 2800 block of S. Lang Street, At approximately 10:40 p.m. on October 8, police were dispatched to the report of a tampering with vehicle/destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that a male victim was inside his home when he heard a loud pop. The victim went outside and noticed his car window was smashed. A witness reported two suspects fleeing the scene. Police canvassed the area and located two juvenile suspects matching the witness description. Two additional vehicles were located during the canvas with smashed windows and items inside the vehicles displaced. Petitions were sought for the juvenile suspects.

by ARLnow.com October 6, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced today a plan to fund a public electric vehicle charging network across the state.

McAuliffe’s administration has released a Request for Proposals for the network, which will be paid for with funds from a lawsuit settlement with Volkswagen, stemming from its emissions scandal.

The Commonwealth is seeking to expand the network of public fast charging stations across the state — there are currently only about 100 — to keep up with rising adoption of electric vehicles.

The RFP notes:

The average growth rate of EVs registered in Virginia from 2008 to 2016 is 35%. As of 2016, there were 4,058 EVs registered in Virginia. Assuming this historical growth rate continues, Virginia EV registrations are projected to reach 1.3 million by 2035.

More on the RFP, below, from a press release issued by the governor’s office.

Governor McAuliffe today announced the release of a Request for Proposal (RFP) to deploy an interconnected and statewide public electric vehicle charging network. The request is part of the Governor’s broader Electric Vehicle (EV) Initiative, which is aimed at driving infrastructure investments that will support an overall electric vehicle adoption rate of 15 percent by 2027, equal to approximately 1 million vehicles statewide. Funding, in the amount of $14 million, comes from Virginia’s portion of the Volkswagen settlement.

“Today’s announcement offers an exciting opportunity for the private sector to partner with the Commonwealth to drive greater deployment of electric vehicles in Virginia and I am pleased that we will be able to utilize funds from the Volkswagen settlement to support this project,” said Governor McAuliffe. “By providing the charging network citizens need to move quickly and at long distances throughout Virginia, we will make certain that electric vehicle travel in the Commonwealth is seamless. This infrastructure will also help us to reduce our collective carbon footprint and drive innovation in the new Virginia economy.”

As part of the Volkswagen settlement, which resulted from the use of emissions testing defeat devices in Volkswagen vehicles, Volkswagen is required to establish a nearly $3 billion environmental mitigation trust. Virginia is expected to receive $93.6 million from this trust, and the Commonwealth may spend a maximum of 15 percent on electric vehicle infrastructure.

“Expanding Virginia’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure will contribute to Virginia’s economic diversification by encouraging innovation in electric vehicle technology, making electric vehicle travel easier, and facilitating public-private partnerships throughout the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore. “This targeted and rapid deployment of EV charging stations is designed to jump-start adoption and generate more private investment in EV technology in Virginia.”

In order to develop a robust network of electric vehicle charging stations along the most-traveled portions of the state, Virginia will designate the full 15 percent, representing approximately $14 million dollars, for electric vehicle infrastructure. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the lead agency for the Commonwealth, has issued a request for proposals for allocation of the full $14 million to establish an interconnected and statewide public electric vehicle charging network. Responses to the RFP are due by 2:00pm on Monday November 6, 2017.

“The Department of Environmental Quality, as lead agency on the Volkswagen settlement, is driving an innovative program to deploy electric vehicle infrastructure,” said Molly Ward, Secretary of Natural Resources. “The transportation sector is the largest contributor to nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon dioxide emissions, so this program will also help Virginia achieve our air quality and climate change goals.”

Today, Virginia’s Direct Current (DC) fast charging network for electric vehicles consists of 100 DC fast charging stations, underscoring a significant gap in infrastructure in the state.

by Katie Pyzyk October 3, 2017 at 11:30 am 0

The recent spate of major hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. has raised the possibility of flood-damaged vehicles making their way up to the local used car market, Virginia officials warn.

Hundreds of thousands of vehicles are thought to have been damaged by hurricane-related flooding. That has prompted warnings from Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles and attorney general.

Although Virginia state law requires owners to report water damage when selling their vehicle, not everyone does. The AG and DMV have released guidelines of what to watch for when purchasing a used vehicle.

Their full statement is below.

RICHMOND (October 3, 2017) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) are urging customers in the market for a new or used car to be on the lookout for vehicles with water damage in the wake of massive flooding caused by a recent onslaught of hurricanes that has damaged or destroyed countless vehicles.

“All Virginians purchasing a used car directly from another individual should have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic, but that advice is even more pertinent in the wake of massive flooding when the risk of purchasing a water-damaged car increases,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Virginians need to be on the lookout for signs of water damage when purchasing a vehicle, and should always trust their instincts – if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

“Nearly one-out-of-three car sales occurs directly between individuals,” DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb said. “The dangers of water-damaged cars can be hidden. Aside from mold and rust, electrical systems could erode and fail over time. Computer sensors could be damaged and safety protections like air bags could fail in a crash.”

State law requires water damage to be reported on a vehicle’s title; however, dishonest sellers can find ways to circumvent these requirements, putting buyers at risk. If a vehicle is branded as non-repairable, the vehicle cannot be titled in Virginia, but a non-repairable car could be titled in another state. If a Virginian purchases that car and tries to title it in Virginia, the vehicle’s history would show it as non-repairable and the customer couldn’t obtain a title.

Virginia Code § 46.2-624 requires insurance companies to report to DMV when they have paid a claim of $3,500 or more on a vehicle due to water damage. Insurers are required to notify DMV of such water damage, even if the owner intends to continue driving the vehicle.

One tool consumers can use to check a vehicle’s history is the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). By centralizing national title records, NMVTIS can help customers take extra precautions to identify flood-damaged, stolen or otherwise unsafe vehicles prior to titling. For more information, visit vehiclehistory.gov.

While there is no sure method to test for vehicle flood damage, here are several inspection tips that may help detect significant water damage:

  • Examine the interior and the engine compartment for evidence of water and grit from suspected submersion.
  • Check for recently shampooed carpet, and check under the floorboard carpet for water residue or stain marks from evaporated water not related to air-conditioning pan leaks.
  • Look for rusting on the inside of the car and under interior carpeting, and visually inspect all interior upholstery and door panels for evidence of fading.
  • Check under the dashboard for dried mud and residue, and note any evidence of mold or a musty odor in the upholstery, carpet or trunk.
  • Check for rust on screws in the console or other areas where water would not reach unless submerged.
  • Check for mud or grit in alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses, and around the small recesses of starter motors, power-steering pumps and relays.
  • Complete a detailed inspection of the electrical wiring system, looking for rusted components, water residue or suspicious corrosion.
  • Inspect the undercarriage or other components for evidence of rust and flaking metal that would not normally be associated with late-model vehicles.
  • Ask a lot of questions and be thorough. Trust your instincts: if you don’t like the answers or the deal sounds too good to be true, walk away.

While these inspection suggestions will not detect flood damage in every case, they do provide some information to protect consumers from purchasing a vehicle damaged by floodwaters. If you are purchasing a used vehicle, always consider having it inspected by a mechanic.

Photo (top) via U.S. Coast Guard

by Katie Pyzyk September 28, 2017 at 3:00 pm 0

Police responded to reports of vehicle break-ins this morning in Rosslyn.

Upon responding to an initial break-in call, police found that five cars on the 1500 and 1600 blocks of Colonial Terrace had been entered and items were stolen. All of the vehicles were unlocked.

The thefts prompted another reminder from Arlington County Police for residents to take measures to keep their cars and valuables secure.

From ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department is reminding citizens to remove the opportunity for crime by locking your vehicles. Here are some simple tips to help prevent larcenies from auto:

1. No matter if you park on a public street, in a driveway or garage take all valuables out of your vehicle. This includes keys, key fobs, purses, cash, credit cards and electronics. Don’t forget the valet key that comes with some vehicles.

2. Lock your doors and pull on the door handle to verify it’s locked. If a thief can get into a vehicle, they can also have access to a garage door opener and can gain access to your home. Always ensure the door between your garage and home is locked.

3. Call police if you see people looking into vehicles. The telltale sign that this has occurred in your neighborhood are open doors with the interior dome lights on. If you don’t see the perpetrator(s) but suspect some vehicles have been entered, call the non-emergency number at 703-558-2222. If you see a suspect in your vehicle, DO NOT APPROACH THEM and call 911 immediately.

by Chris Teale September 13, 2017 at 4:45 pm 0

Its sightings last month left many baffled, and now, car company Ford has explained why and how it sent a “driverless” car through the streets of Courthouse and Clarendon.

In a Medium post today (Wednesday), John Shutko, Ford’s Human Factors Technical Specialist for Self-Driving Vehicles, said the company was working with Virginia Tech to test ways for driverless cars to more effectively show its intentions to pedestrians and other road users.

Ford joined with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to test the technology — an animated light bar in the windshield of the video — and to see how those around reacted when they saw a car with no one in the driver’s seat.

“Anyone who has crossed a busy street likely knows the informal language between pedestrians and drivers,” Shutko wrote. “A driver might wave her hand to indicate to the pedestrian it’s okay to cross, or a pedestrian could throw up his hand like a stop sign to signal he plans to cross first. But what happens in the future, when self-driving vehicles operate without drivers – and in some cases, without anyone even in the vehicle itself?”

After being first reported by ARLnow.com, and famously further investigated by NBC4 reporter Adam Tuss — who was startled to discover a person in a seat costume inside — VT admitted it was behind the driverless car.

Ford said people are put in the cars — and dressed as car seats — for safety reasons, as self-driving technology is still in the early stages of testing and development.

The vehicle, a Ford Transit Connect van, had a light bar on top of its windshield. The bar pulsed white light back and forth when yielding, blinked rapidly before accelerating after a stop, or stayed solid when driving normally.

“Virtual reality testing with customers shows it takes a couple of exposures to signals like these before people truly understand what they mean,” Chutko wrote. “It takes even longer for signals to become ingrained in people’s brains  –  second nature, if you will. Through our testing, we believe these signals have the chance to become an accepted visual language that helps address an important societal issue in how self-driving vehicles interact with humans.”

Ford said it has logged more than 150 hours and around 1,800 miles in its tests in dense urban areas. Chutko said the time is right to create an industry standard for autonomous vehicle communications and to start to educate the public.

by Chris Teale September 13, 2017 at 3:50 pm 0

Arlington County drivers will have been feeling the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma at the pump, with gas prices spiking by up to 30 cents a gallon or more locally.

Harvey hit oil refineries throughout Texas, with about one-quarter of oil refining capacity on the Gulf Coast being temporarily shut down, according to AAA. And in Arlington and elsewhere in the U.S., prices have spiked as the refineries get back up and running and damage to their systems and pipelines is assessed.

As of Wednesday, prices at the Shell and Speedway stations near Clarendon were $2.69 a gallon for unleaded gas, up from the former price of around $2.30 a gallon.

Despite a spike of around $0.30 cents since the hurricanes, Virginia remains one of the least expensive states to buy gas, at just over $2.50 a gallon on average, according to GasBuddy.com.

“As in any national or local state of emergency, AAA expects gas prices to be held in check up and down the gasoline supply chain, including prices set by refiners, distributors and dealers unless there is a clearly justifiable reason for an increase,” Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokeswoman, said.

AAA is also warning anyone looking to buy a car to be careful of buying a flood-damaged used car. When major storms trigger flooding, thousands of totaled cars are shipped out of the affected area and can end up on the used car market elsewhere in the country. As many as a million vehicles may have been submerged by Harvey, AAA said last week.

Sometimes, buyers can be unaware a car has been repaired after being damaged by floodwater. Cars are meticulously dried out, scoured and scrubbed, then the title is “washed,” where it is moved from state to state until it is branded as repairable. They are then sold on by what AAA described as “unscrupulous sellers and fly-by-night operators.”

In a statement, John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs, said:

“Use your five senses to detect telltale signs a vehicle has been flooded. Then use your sixth sense. Look for a waterline under the hood, undercarriage and bumpers; for mud and debris inside the cabin and trunk; for signs of rust, and for fogging inside the headlights and taillights. Use your sense of smell to detect the scent of disinfectants or cleansing agents used to cloak musty smells or mold or mildew. Touch the carpet or floor mats for residual traces of wetness or for signs that the carpets, seats and interiors were recently shampooed.

“Listen to the engine to check if it runs smoothly, or runs rough, or makes abnormal noises as it runs. Also listen to the sound system, to check if the electronics are working properly, because some mechanical and electronic components don’t survive flooding. Curiously, the term ‘lemon,’ a slang first used to describe a ‘worthless thing’ and then ‘a defective car,’ stems from a metaphor for ‘something that leaves a foul or bad taste in your mouth.’ That could happen to you if you buy a flood-damaged vehicle.

“Then rely upon your intuition, instincts, and ‘mother wit.’ Flooded cars are not always totaled and 50 percent are eventually resold. But most of all, use your common sense, and always purchase a vehicle history report or obtain a free VIN report for any vehicle suspected of having a watery past.”

by Buzz McClain August 21, 2017 at 6:00 am 0

When Daniel Fishman bought his first new car a few years ago he fell into a trap most new car owners fall into: A compulsion to keep that showroom gleam.

“But I found that living in a city apartment without a hose at my disposal made that difficult,” he says. “It was hard to keep my baby clean.”

That’s when it dawned on him that the car washing business was ready for a disruptor, an internet-based service that would essentially deliver a car washing service the way ride-hailing apps deliver rides.

Fishman and partner Dinko Badic launched WashMyCar, LLC, last summer. Car owners schedule their washes via a superbly friction-less web-based application or an old-fashioned phone call an hour or two before they want the service.

Car washes start at $22 for an exterior hand wash.

“We spend a minimum of 50 minutes on a hand wash,” Fishman says. “But we’ll spend up to three hours if a customer orders a full slate of the services we offer.”

That includes tire shines ($8), interior cleaning ($45) and hand waxing ($32). Customers may also sign up for a subscription for scheduling the service at regular intervals.

“We describe our service as somewhere between a machine wash–which isn’t as safe as hand washing–and a full-on detailing service, but we’re far less expensive,” he said.

WashMyCar is not the usual service you get from the soap splashing teens raising money for their high school bands at the gas station. Fishman and Badic are serious about providing a quality service that earns high praise. “We have 100 percent positive customer feedback, and we want to keep it that way,” Fishman says.

Which is why they bring their own high-quality, proprietary equipment and cleansers and a better-than-average knowledge of factory-applied clear coat, base coat and primer and what works best when cleaning them.

Like Fishman when he was inspired to start WashMyCar, any Arlington residents live in dwellings that do not make outdoor hoses available for washing cars and trucks. Fishman and Badic solved that problem with what he calls “a two-bucket method” of washing.

“We use two to three gallons of water, which is very low water consumption for a car wash,” he says. “So it’s eco-friendly, which was important to us. There’s virtually no water run-off. And we don’t need a hose. It takes a little longer than if we used a hose, but it’s worth it.”

The car doesn’t have to be outdoors, even: WashMyCar can wash your car in a garage. And the vehicle owner does not need to be present at the time of the wash, unless they want interior cleaning, and even then if arrangements are made for opening the car, they don’t have to be there for that.

For more information see the WashMyCar website or Facebook page. Contact WashMyCar at 202-810-9274 or [email protected].

The preceding was a sponsored business profile written by Buzz McClain.

by ARLnow.com August 9, 2017 at 10:05 am 0

As noted this morning, Virginia has made it legal to test self-driving car technologies in the Commonwealth.

That policy is getting additional attention after a seemingly driverless van was spotted driving around Clarendon last week and, this week, was revealed to be a human-driven Virginia Tech research project.

While the mysterious van was not self-driving, automated vehicle testing is expected to take place in Northern Virginia, as we wrote last week.

VDOT and FHWA recently announced that Virginia Tech would be conducting automated vehicle testing along I-95, I-495, I-66, Route 50 and Route 29. The announcement did not mention testing on primary streets along Metro corridors, however WTOP reported in May that “self-driving cars already on Virginia roads, even if you don’t realize it.”

Self-driving vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives each year by reducing human-caused crashes while also freeing up drivers to focus on other tasks during their daily commute. Such technology could also become an economic engine for the region, should Northern Virginia become a leader in the field.

On the other hand, testing a new technology in a heavily populated region certainly comes with risks. And many fear the unknown with self-driving cars: what if the tech has flaws and causes crashes?

What do you think of automated vehicle testing in Northern Virginia?

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